...aka: Woman's Obsession, A
With efforts such as In Love (1981) and Roommates (1982), New York City-based filmmaker Chuck Vincent managed to pull off the almost-impossible: garnering mainstream critical respect for adult film work. That was something not at all common, and is actually quite impressive when you take into consideration how X-rated films are usually demonized by both critics and society in general. Though I've personally received some nasty / negative feedback for doing so, I've never shied away from including adult films here at The Bloody Pit of Horror as long as they meet the timeline / content criteria. Some of the X-rated horror titles I've seen from the Golden Age of such films are as good as similar films with an R-rating. On a very rare occasion, they're even better. I'm sure Vincent's acclaimed adult titles are about the same. Sure, they include graphic sex, but the acting and screenplays are also apparently quite good and the films stack up favorably against many R-rated comedies or dramas of their time. I wouldn't know for sure since I've not actually seen any of these, but it seems to be the general consensus based on reviews I've read.
Vincent went a more mainstream route throughout the 1980s with only marginal success. He cranked out a slew of silly sex comedies (which were popular on cable and VHS at the time) and a handful of thrillers. Based on the inventive, bizarre, disturbing, Repulsion-inspired DERANGED (1987), which played out like a good stage play, and this one, I'd say it's a true shame Mr. Vincent (who passed away in 1991; another casualty of the AIDS crisis) didn't concentrate more on darker thrillers because he seemed to have a real knack for psychological horror that didn't quite get perfected during his lifetime. Each of his thrillers are uneven, but possess elements of excellence and showcase much promise.
Bad Blood (which played on TV under that title but was distributed on VHS as A Woman Obsessed) also proves to be a great showcase for the talents of Georgina Spelvin (billed as "Ruth Raymond" here). Spelvin, of course, was one of the top adult stars of the 1970s, beginning with the groundbreaking classic The Devil in Miss Jones in 1973. Already a mature actress in her 40s at the start of her porn career, Spelvin was even more seasoned by the late 80s when Bad Blood was made. In a way, this film is to Spelvin what What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was to Bette Davis, or Strait-Jacket was to Joan Crawford: a platform for an experience actress deemed "past her prime" or "over the hill" to show the world she's still more than a little capable of carrying a film all on her own. The film also marked the "legit" debut for popular porn actor Randy Spears (billed as "Gregory Patrick"), who is adequate - though not exceptional - as the male lead. Linda Blair and Troy Donahue round out the cast and brought along with them the direct-to-video star power to ensure this had a healthy run on cable during its day.
Successful New York City lawyer Ted Barnes (Spears) is out taking a jog when he's pulled into an art gallery by the owner (Frank Stewart), who shows him a portrait of a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to himself. The kicker? The portrait was painted 25 years earlier. Ted and his real estate agent wife Evie (Blair) decide to go to the showing and are introduced to the woman who painted it. She - Arlene Bellings (Spelvin) - tells him the painting is of her late husband. She also informs Ted that he's actually her son. Ted, having no clue he'd even been adopted, confronts Wanda (Carolyn Van Bellinghen), the woman he's believed to be his birth mother all these years. Wanda finally tells him the truth. Unable to conceive, her husband Jack (Donahue) was threatening to leave her, so she arranged to purchase a baby on the black market and try to pass it off as her own. The baby? Ted, of course. Arlene fills in the rest of the blanks on the sad tale. Her former husband Joe had kidnapped infant Ted and tried to blackmail Arlene and her wealthy father. One thing led to another and Arlene's father shot Joe dead before finding out the whereabouts of the baby. Baby Ted was stashed in a hotel and, feeling he'd been abandoned anyway, Wanda took him and passed him off as her own.
Wanting to finally start a relationship, Arlene (who'd inherited a great deal of money from her now-deceased pops), invites Ted and Evie out for the weekend to her sprawling Long Island mansion. She shows her son off at a lavish party and makes sure Evie gets plenty of tasty hors d'vores while there. Ted is clued in that something might not be quite right by a war vet friend of his birth father's and from a chatterbox bimbo maid named Crystal (Christina Veronica). Later that night, Ted catches Arlene wandering around outside. He follows her to the family graveyard, where she goes on a scary tirade by her late father's grave, informing him that "Joe has come back!" Yes, Arlene has a bad habit of calling Ted "Joe." That's because she's so crazy she thinks her newfound son IS her long-dead husband, the only man she ever loved and brought her true happiness. And Arlene will do anything not to let him slip away again.
First up, she needs to get rid of his pesky wife. Arlene's been poisoning everything she's given Evie to eat or drink. She's so nauseated, weakened and cramped up she can barely get out of bed the next day, so Ted has to be Arlene's date to a charity function. When Ted and Evie do finally try to leave, they run over something that turns out to be Crystal's corpse. A sheriff stops by and suggests they stay in the area in case he has any follow-up questions, so back to Arlene's they go. And that's when Arlene decides to really let it all hang out. While Evie is upstairs unknowingly eating more tainted food, Arlene is downstairs decked out in a poofy-shouldered ball gown preparing a candlelight dinner, pouring the champagne and putting on romantic music for her and her son. By this point she doesn't even bother calling Ted by his real name any longer. He's Joe to her and that's that. Evie manages to wander downstairs and when she gets there she finds Arlene laying on top of Ted kissing him. In a highly effective slow-motion sequence that lasts several minutes, Arlene slashes poor Evie up with a knife and then cuts her throat.
In scenes very reminiscent of the following year's MISERY (only much, much sicker!), Ted awakens tied to a bed in the attic and at the whim of his deranged mama, who is prone to fits of sudden rage. When Ted gets defiant with his captor, he's slapped around, kicked and refused food and water. Arlene punishes him for using foul language and for wetting the bed and, when he tries to get the attention of a cop by making noise, Arlene plays a deranged version of This Little Piggy, breaking all of his toes in the process! She wants her son to have "desire for" her and, during the film's most twisted moment, she barges into his room drunk, strips off his underwear and rapes him while he cries! The ending goes way over-the-top as Arlene invites a bunch of her friends and Ted's adoptive parents over for a wedding ceremony that includes her walking Ted around on a leash, running around with a straight razor trying to slash people up, attempting to drown Wanda in a bathtub, throwing Jack over a banister and getting into a prolonged cat fight with the other mother, capped off with a rip-off of the final moment from Carrie (1976).
It's well-made, extremely twisted, stylishly shot and edited (with good use made of slow-motion and even split screen), entertaining... and really deserves to be released on DVD. Unfortunately, it - along with most of Vincent's other mainstream efforts, including the aforementioned Deranged starring Veronica Hart (who has a small role here as well) - has all but vanished since its initial VHS release. Most of the actors are able to skillfully navigate their way through some very long takes here. Spelvin in particular is great and goes all out in her role, which is played with more than just a hint of scenery-chewing camp. She even gets to destroy an entire room full of furniture with a baseball bat while screaming at the top of her lungs!
The video was distributed by Academy in 1989 (the film carries a 1988 copyright date). King's novel Misery was published in 1987 and perhaps influenced Craig Horrall's screenplay.